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How to Help an Unmotivated & Bored Teenager

by Nadia Haris , studioD

You might find it frustrating if your teen returns your enthusiastic and encouraging smile with a bored, indifferent look. He might not show interest in hobbies, sports, helping out at home or doing his homework. Your teenager might find all your suggestions "boring" and in spite your best efforts, you might still see his grades slipping. Instead of responding with criticism and lectures in an attempt to motivate him, Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC, in an article for the EmpoweringParents website, explains that your role is to inspire and influence your teenager.

Compliment your teen for something he does well or when he helps out around the house or yard. "Positive Discipline" co-authors Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott note that feeling appreciated will help your teen feel better about himself. Getting a compliment can help improve your teen's internal motivation because it acknowledges him for who he is.

Deal with situations with humor instead of anger or lecturing, advises "InStep" counselor and author Cathi Cohen. This helps your teen develop her own internal motivation. For example, if your teen forgets to do the dishes, nonchalantly serve dinner in teacups instead, to remind her to do chores on time. Your teen will likely see this as a lighthearted reminder and not an attack on her behavior.

Inspire your teenager by getting involved in what she's learning, advise Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott. For example, read a novel that she's assigned, so you can discuss the themes, plots and characters together. When you're both finished reading, have a film night to watch the movie version. Or, take your teen on a nature walk or spend a day together at a museum to point out real-life examples of what she's is studying in her science class. Making abstract academics more relevant to her life will help motivate your teen to learn.

Help your teen break down his schedule so that he's better organized. " Josh Shipp, author of "The Teen's Guide to World Domination" and creator of the Identity Program for teens warns that if your teen is feeling overwhelmed, don't try to help him by doing any of his tasks. This teaches him that it is acceptable to give up. Instead, help arrange all his assignments and projects into a weekly schedule so that he can complete them in an orderly way on his own.

Ask your teenager questions and listen to his answers respectfully. For example, if your teen goes to his part-time weekend job on time, but has trouble getting up for school every morning, ask him why this is happening. If your child completes her math homework, but skips her history homework often, ask why. Josh Shipp explains that this confirms to your teen that you notice positive things he does -- and it opens a discussion to motivate him to perform better on other tasks.


  • Discuss important topics such as your teen's grades or behavior, while you are playing a sport or taking a walk together. This can help make your teen more responsive and it's not confrontational.


  • If your teenager's lack of motivation is not improving or if you have other concerns, seek professional medical help. Mental health counselor Debbie Pincus advises having your teenager's pediatrician rule out learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, addictions, depression and mental illness and other conditions.

About the Author

Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.